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This exploratory study described the prenatal care experience in the public and private arena from the perceptions of childbearing women using interpretive interactionism.A face-to-face interview comprised of eight open-ended questions was used to obtain pregnant women's perceptions of their prenatal care experience and prenatal care needs. The purposive sample consisted of six women who received private prenatal care and 14 women who received public prenatal care.Five essential elements of the prenatal care experience were identified. Prenatal care was viewed as a cooperative effort between informal self-care and formal care by health professionals. Issues related to individuality and normality were important considerations in the delivery of prenatal care.Controversy exists over the effectiveness of prenatal care in preventing poor outcomes, as the definition of what constitutes adequate prenatal care remains unclear. Advanced practice nurses (APNs) continue to play a pivotal role in the provision of prenatal care services. The expanded knowledge and skills possessed by APNs place them in a pivotal position to develop and implement individualized, developmentally appropriate prenatal care that the women in this study so desperately wanted. In addition, they can assist women in continuing the health promoting behaviors initiated prenatally through out their lifespan.