BACKGROUND: Identification of psychosocial issues in pregnant women by screening is difficult because of the lack of accuracy of screening tools, women's reluctance to disclose sensitive issues, and health care practitioner's reluctance to ask. This paper evaluates if a health professional education program, a new (ANEW) approach, improves pregnant women's ratings of care and practitioner's listening skills and comfort to disclose psychosocial issues. METHODS: Midwives and doctors from Mercy Hospital for Women, Melbourne, Australia, were trained from August to December 2002. English-speaking women (<20 wks' gestation) were recruited at their first visit and mailed a survey at 30 weeks (early 2002) before and after (2003) the ANEW educational intervention. Follow-up was by postal reminder at 2 weeks and telephone reminder 2 weeks later. RESULTS: Twenty-one midwives and 5 doctors were trained. Of the eligible women, 78.2 percent (584/747) participated in a pre-ANEW survey and 73.3 percent (481/657) in a post-ANEW survey. After ANEW, women were more likely to report that midwives asked questions that helped them to talk about psychosocial problems (OR 1.45, CI 1.09-1.98) and that they would feel comfortable to discuss a range of psychosocial issues if they were experiencing them (coping after birth for midwives [OR 1.51, CI 1.10-2.08] and feeling depressed [OR 1.49, 1.16-1.93]; and concerns relating to sex [OR 1.35, CI 1.03-1.77] or their relationships [OR 1.36, CI 1.00-1.85] for doctors). CONCLUSIONS: The ANEW program evaluation suggests trends of better communication by health professionals for pregnant women and should be evaluated using rigorous methods in other settings.