Lack of suppression of plasma glucagon levels in late pregnancy persists postpartum only in women with previous gestational diabetes mellitus

Acta Diabetol. 2005 Mar;42(1):31-5. doi: 10.1007/s00592-005-0171-5.


The aim of the present study was to examine fasting (0') and postglucose glucagon levels in normal and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) pregnancy, as available data are somewhat conflicting. To this end we studied 18 women with GDM at 26-32 weeks of pregnancy and compared these with 26 normal pregnant women matched for age and BMI. We also examined glucagon suppressibility postpartum (2-4 months) in the same ex-GDM women, in whom normal glucose tolerance was confirmed (WHO criteria) and compared these with 17 controls matched for age and BMI. Glucose, insulin and glucagon levels were measured during a 100 or 75 g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) respectively. In pregnant women, baseline and 3 h after glucose ingestion, plasma glucagon levels were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in women with GDM compared to normal women. Interestingly, in normal pregnancy a significant increase (p < 0.01) of postglucose plasma glucagon levels at 1 and 2 h compared to baseline levels was observed, while there was no change in GDM pregnancy. In postpartum euglycaemic women, there was no difference in basal glucagon levels between the two groups. A differential glucagon response during OGTT was observed: in control women there was a significant glucagon suppression (p < 0.01) at 2 h, while there was a significant glucagon increase (p < 0.01) 1 h after glucose ingestion, in ex-GDM women. We conclude that (a) absence of the suppressibility of glucagon in ex-GDM women with normal OGTT may indicate insulin resistance and might be involved in the natural history towards glucose intolerance; and (b) nonsuppression of glucagon in normal late pregnancy as well as in pregnancy complicated by GDM may be due to "physiological" insulin resistance of the alpha cells during this period.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes, Gestational / blood*
  • Female
  • Glucagon / blood*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Postpartum Period / blood*
  • Pregnancy


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Insulin
  • Glucagon