Objective: to assess Australian midwives' attitudes towards caring for women with emotional distress and their perceptions of the extent to which workplace policies and processes hindered such care. Design: a postal survey. Setting: members of the Australian College of Midwives. Participants: 815 Australian midwives completed the survey. Measurements: a modified version of the 17-item REASON questionnaire (McCall et al., 2002) that was originally developed for used by General Practitioners to measure their attitudes towards their role in the management of patients with mental health disorders. Findings: An exploratory factor analysis with Varimax rotation identified four factors that reflected midwives' (1) perceptions of systemic problems that hindered emotional care, (2) attitudes towards working with women experiencing emotional health problems, (3) perceived competence in using treatment techniques and (4) attitudes and perceived competence towards the referral of women with depression and anxiety to other health professionals. Key conclusions and implications for practice: participating midwives indicated their willingness to offer assistance and acknowledged the importance of providing emotional care to women. In practice, emotional care by midwives is impeded by perceived lack of competency rather than a lack of interest. Midwives' competency in the assessment and care of women with conditions such as depression and anxiety may be enhanced through continuing professional education.