Objectives To describe the prospects, achievements, challenges and opportunities for implementing intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in pregnancy (IPTp) in Tanzania in light of national antenatal care (ANC) guidelines and ability of service providers to comply with them. Methods In-depth interviews were made with national level malaria control officers in 2006 and 2007. Data was analysed manually using a qualitative content analysis approach. Results IPTp has been under implementation countrywide since 2001 and the 2005 evaluation report showed increased coverage of women taking two doses of IPTp from 29% to 65% between 2001 and 2007. This achievement was acknowledged, however, several challenges were noted including (i) the national antenatal care (ANC) guidelines emphasizing two IPTp doses during a woman's pregnancy, while other agencies operating at district level were recommending three doses, this confuses frontline health workers (HWs); (ii) focused ANC guidelines have been revised, but printing and distribution to districts has often been delayed; (iii) reports from district management teams demonstrate constraints related to women's late booking, understaffing, inadequate skills of most HWs and their poor motivation. Other problems were unreliable supply of free SP at private clinics, clean and safe water shortage at many government ANC clinics limiting direct observation treatment and occasionally pregnant women asked to pay for ANC services. Finally, supervision of peripheral health facilities has been inadequate and national guidelines on district budgeting for health services have been inflexible. IPTp coverage is generally low partly because IPTp is not systematically enforced like programmes on immunization, tuberculosis, leprosy and other infectious diseases. Necessary concerted efforts towards fostering uptake and coverage of two IPTp doses were emphasized by the national level officers, who called for further action including operational health systems research to understand challenges and suggest ways forward for effective implementation and high coverage of IPTp. Conclusion The benefit of IPTp is appreciated by national level officers who are encouraged by trends in the coverage of IPTp doses. However, their appeal for concerted efforts towards IPTp scaling-up through rectifying the systemic constraints and operational research is important and supported by suggestions by other authors.