OBJECTIVE: to evaluate how much education midwives in Sweden have undertaken to help them assess alcohol intake during pregnancy, and what tools they use to identify women who may be at risk of drinking during pregnancy. DESIGN: a national survey was conducted in March 2006, using a questionnaire constructed by a Swedish team of researchers and clinicians. SETTING: maternity health-care centres in Sweden. PARTICIPANT: 2106 midwives. FINDINGS: nearly all midwives stated that they had excellent or good knowledge concerning the risks associated with drinking during pregnancy. They considered themselves less knowledgeable about detecting pregnant women with risky alcohol consumption before pregnancy. The majority of the midwives had participated in some education in handling risky drinking. Almost half of the midwives assessed women's alcohol intake before pregnancy. Important facilitators for increased activity concerned recommendations and decisions at different levels (national, local and management) on how to address alcohol with expectant parents and work with risky drinkers. KEY CONCLUSIONS: more education was associated with more common use of a questionnaire for assessment of women's alcohol intake before pregnancy, and more frequent counselling when identifying a pregnant woman whose pre-pregnancy consumption was risky.