BACKGROUND: Our knowledge of how a woman as an individual experiences, evaluates and copes with pregnancy is limited. The concept of 'sense of coherence' as described by Antonovsky may be an important factor in how people deal with stressful situations in life. The aim of this study is to describe pregnant women's perception of well-being during pregnancy and after delivery and to explore its relationship to their sense of coherence. METHODS: Participants (n = 177) were recruited from four Maternal Health Care Centers (MHCCs) in the Stockholm area. Three standard instruments were used in the study: the Sense of Coherence (SOC) scale, the Health Index (HI) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) scale. These instruments were filled in at pregnancy weeks 10-12 and 34-36 and also 8 weeks after delivery. RESULTS: One hundred and twenty women completed the study. At weeks 34-36 the pregnant women scored significantly worse for well-being than at weeks 10-12 and after delivery. A strong predictor for well-being is the women's degree of SOC. With regard to anxiety and depression no differences were found between the measurements. Neither demographic data such as age or financial status nor degree of complications influenced the results. CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows that the SOC scale measures the capacity to cope with the unforeseeable process that child-bearing still implies today. The SOC scale questionnaire and the HI can complement the midwife's subjective evaluation of the pregnant woman's need for psychosocial support during pregnancy. If this is correct, the SOC scale and the HI could be of great value in clinical work within maternal health care.