Contraceptive Effectiveness in the Real World (aka Typical Use) and Why It Matters

May 23, 2019

Have you ever heard of anyone getting pregnant while taking the birth control pill? We have. “But wait!” you might say. “Isn’t the pill 99.9% effective? How can anyone get pregnant with a failure rate of 0.1%?!”


Yes, the pill is a highly effective birth control method, but like all methods, there are situations that can foil its effectiveness. Many people are surprised to find out that their chosen method could sometimes fail, so it’s good to know about the two effectiveness rates that all methods have. These rates are called Perfect Use and Typical Use and they are determined through clinical testing. But with two rates for each method, it can be confusing! Let’s take a look at what they mean to try to clear things up:



Perfect Use effectiveness is how effective a birth control method is when used correctly all of the time. Like perfectly. No slip ups. No mistakes. Nada. Zilch. The Perfect Use effectiveness of the pill, according to Contraceptive Technology*, is 99.7%. This means that of 100 women taking the pill, fewer than 1 will get pregnant in the first year of use. To use the pill perfectly means taking it daily at about the same time each day.



Typical Use effectiveness takes into account perfect use as well as incorrect use, so it is unofficially referred to as “real-world” use. If we go back to the pill example, its Typical Use effectiveness is 93%. That means that if 100 women were taking the pill, 7 would get pregnant during the first year of real-world use. 


Perfect Use effectiveness is always higher than Typical Use effectiveness. As mentioned, the 99+% effectiveness of the birth control pill is the Perfect Use rate. And guess what? The Dot Fertility Tracker is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy in Perfect Use, too. But Dot’s contraceptive effectiveness is significant, because when compared to the pill, the Perfect Use AND Typical Use rates are similar.


Take a look at the following chart, TYPICAL USE FAILURE RATES of the top user-directed contraceptive methods, to see how they compare.



Check out the research paper published in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Healthcare, Perfect- and Typical-Use Effectiveness of the Dot Fertility App over 13 cycles: Results from a Prospective Contraceptive Effectiveness Trial to learn more.


What method is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy? The answer is abstinence. There is no birth control method out there that is absolutely, bar none 100% effective.



* Contraceptive Technology, 20th Edition

About Dot

Developed by Cycle Technologies, Dot™ is the only period tracker that dynamically calculates your pregnancy risks and can be used for pregnancy prevention, pregnancy planning, and as a fertility tracker. Learn more at




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