Gametogenesis is a highly complex process that requires the exquisite temporal, spatial and amplitudinal regulation of gene expression at multiple levels. Translational regulation is important in a wide variety of cell types but may be even more prevalent in germ cells, where periods of transcriptional quiescence necessitate the use of post-transcriptional mechanisms to effect changes in gene expression. Consistent with this, studies in multiple animal models have revealed an essential role for mRNA translation in the establishment and maintenance of reproductive competence. While studies in humans are less advanced, emerging evidence suggests that translational regulation plays a similarly important role in human germ cells and fertility. This review highlights specific mechanisms of translational regulation that play critical roles in oogenesis by activating subsets of mRNAs. These mRNAs are activated in a strictly determined temporal manner via elements located within their 3'UTR, which serve as binding sites for trans-acting factors. While we concentrate on oogenesis, these regulatory events also play important roles during spermatogenesis. In particular, we focus on the deleted in azoospermia-like (DAZL) family of proteins, recently implicated in the translational control of specific mRNAs in germ cells; their relationship with the general translation initiation factor poly(A)-binding protein (PABP) and the process of cytoplasmic mRNA polyadenylation.