Mutations in structural maintenance of chromosomes (Smc) proteins are frequently associated with chromosomal abnormalities commonly observed in developmental disorders. However, the role of Smc proteins in development still remains elusive. To investigate Smc5/6 function during early embryogenesis we examined smc5 and smc6 mutants of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster using a combination of reverse genetics and microscopy approaches. Smc5/6 exhibited a maternally contributed function in maintaining chromosome stability during early embryo development, which manifested as female subfertility in its absence. Loss of Smc5/6 caused an arrest and a considerable delay in embryo development accompanied by fragmented nuclei and increased anaphase-bridge formation, respectively. Surprisingly, early embryonic arrest was attributable to the absence of Smc5/6 during oogenesis, which resulted in insufficient repair of pre-meiotic and meiotic DNA double-strand breaks. Thus, our findings contribute to the understanding of Smc proteins in higher eukaryotic development by highlighting a maternal function in chromosome maintenance and a link between oogenesis and early embryogenesis.