The aim of this study was to explore the direct embryonic teratogenicity of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), especially the toxic effects on the early development of the nervous system and its underlying mechanisms. Pregnant mice at embryonic day 6.5 (E6.5) were injected with different doses of VCM (200, 400 and 600 mg/kg) and embryos were harvested at E10.5. Our results showed that doses higher than 400 mg/kg of VCM increased the incidence of malformed embryos, especially the neural tube defects (NTDs). In addition, high-dose of VCM decreased mitotic figure counts in the neuroepithelium and enhanced the percentage of cells in G0/G1 phase, while they were reduced in S phase. The more VCM was injected into mice, the fewer positive PCNA cells were seen and the more positive TUNEL cells were observed in the neuroepithelium. Moreover, significant increases in the levels of caspase-3 protein were observed in NTD embryos. Our results demonstrate that during early pregnancy, exposure to doses higher than 400 mg/kg of VCM increases the incidence of malformations and particularly the rate of NTDs. High-dose of VCM inhibits the proliferation of neural cells and induces cell apoptosis, leading to an imbalance in the ratio of proliferation and apoptosis. Meanwhile, the apoptosis of neuroepithelial cells might be accelerated by the activation of the caspase-3 pathway, and it might be a reason for NTDs.