Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is characterized by an initial diagnosis of glucose intolerance during pregnancy. There is increasing evidence supporting the association between GDM and the inhibited development of several organs in offspring. In the present study, a murine GDM model was established in mice by intraperitoneal injection of streptozotocin to evaluate the effect of maternal diabetes on the initiation of meiosis in female germ cells of offspring. The effect of GDM on the initiation of meiosis in the offspring was evaluated by reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction, flow cytometry and hematoxylin and eosin staining. The results showed that, compared with the control group, fetal ovary growth was inhibited, the expression levels of meiosis-specific genes, stimulated by retinoic acid gene 8, synaptonemal complex protein, and DNA meiotic recombinase were inhibited, and the number of primordial/primary follicles was reduced in the GDM group. These may have been induced by an increase of apoptosis and inhibition of growth, as the mRNA levels of p21, a vital G1 cell cycle inhibitor, and apoptotic genes were upregulated, whereas the expression levels of genes important in folliculogenesis were decreased in the GDM group. In conclusion, the data obtained in the present study suggested that maternal diabetes may impair the initiation of meiosis and ovarian growth via growth inhibition, cell cycle arrest and the induction of apoptosis.