A majority of ovarian follicles are lost to natural death, but the disruption of factors involved in maintenance of the oocyte pool results in a further untimely follicular depletion known as premature ovarian failure. The anti-apoptotic B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) family member myeloid cell leukemia-1 (MCL-1) has a pro-survival role in various cell types; however, its contribution to oocyte survival is unconfirmed. We present a phenotypic characterization of oocytes deficient in Mcl-1, and establish its role in maintenance of the primordial follicle (PMF) pool, growing oocyte survival and oocyte quality. Mcl-1 depletion resulted in the premature exhaustion of the ovarian reserve, characterized by early PMF loss because of activation of apoptosis. The increasingly diminished surviving cohort of growing oocytes displayed elevated markers of autophagy and mitochondrial dysfunction. Mcl-1-deficient ovulated oocytes demonstrated an increased susceptibility to cellular fragmentation with activation of the apoptotic cascade. Concomitant deletion of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 member Bcl-2-associated X protein (Bax) rescued the PMF phenotype and ovulated oocyte death, but did not prevent the mitochondrial dysfunction associated with Mcl-1 deficiency and could not rescue long-term breeding performance. We thus recognize MCL-1 as the essential survival factor required for conservation of the postnatal PMF pool, growing follicle survival and effective oocyte mitochondrial function.