Vasa and Belle are conserved DEAD box RNA helicases required for germ cell function. Homologs of this group of proteins in several species, including mammals, are able to complement a mutation in yeast (DED1) suggesting that their function is highly conserved. It has been proposed that these proteins are required for mRNA translation regulation, but their specific mechanism of action is still unknown. Here we describe functions of VBH-1, a C. elegans protein closely related to Belle and Vasa. VBH-1 is expressed specifically in the C. elegans germline, where it is associated with P granules, the C. elegans germ plasm counterpart. vbh-1(RNAi) animals produce fewer offspring than wild type because of defects in oocyte and sperm production, and embryonic lethality. We also find that VBH-1 participates in the sperm/oocyte switch in the hermaphrodite gonad. We conclude that VBH-1 and its orthologs may perform conserved roles in fertility and development.