Piglet birth weight and litter uniformity are important for piglet survival. Insulin-stimulating sow diets before mating may improve subsequent piglet birth weights and litter uniformity, but the physiological mechanisms involved are not clear. This study evaluated effects of different levels of insulin-stimulating feed components (dextrose plus starch; fed twice daily) during the weaning-to-estrus interval (WEI) on plasma insulin and IGF-1 concentrations, and on follicle development and subsequent luteal, fetal and placental development and uniformity at days 42 to 43 of pregnancy. During WEI, multiparous sows were isocalorically fed diets supplemented with 375 g/day dextrose plus 375 g/day corn starch (INS-H), with 172 g/day dextrose plus 172 g/day corn starch and 144 g/day animal fat (INS-L), or with 263 g/day animal fat (CON). Jugular vein catheters were inserted through the ear vein at 1.5 days before weaning to asses plasma insulin and IGF-1 concentrations. After estrus, all sows received a standard gestation diet until slaughter at days 42 to 43 of pregnancy. The dextrose plus starch-diets enhanced the postprandial insulin response in a dose-dependent manner (e.g. at day 2 insulin area under the curve was 4516 μU/444 min for CON, 8197 μU/444 min for INS-L and 10 894 μU/444 min for INS-H; s.e.m. = 694; P < 0.001), but did not affect plasma IGF-1 concentrations during the first 3 days of WEI. Follicle development and subsequent luteal, fetal and placental development and uniformity were not affected by the dietary treatments, nor related to plasma insulin and IGF-1 concentrations during WEI. Pre-weaning plasma insulin and IGF-1 concentrations were negatively related to sow body condition loss during lactation, but were not related to subsequent reproduction characteristics. This study shows that dietary dextrose plus starch are effective in stimulating insulin secretion (both postprandial peak and long-term concentration), but not IGF-1 secretion during the first 3 days after weaning in multiparous sows. The extreme insulin-stimulating diets during WEI did, however, not improve follicle development, or subsequent development and uniformity of fetuses and placentas in these high-prolific sows (27.0 ± 0.6 ovulations; 18.6 ± 0.6 vital fetuses).