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As it applies to contraception, typical use refers to the way contraception is used in the real world, by average people. As humans are imperfect, typical use is usually different from perfect use, which is the ideal use of contraception. As such, the risk of pregnancy using contraceptives with typical use is usually higher than with perfect use.
Typical use takes into account common human failings. It considers that sometimes contraceptives are used inconsistently, incorrectly, or not as prescribed. Several factors can influence typical use. These include the time contraceptives are taken or applied, lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol or taking other medications, stress, and a lack of education or understanding about perfect use.
Because typical use considers human error, it has a higher pregnancy rate for most common contraceptives including the birth control pill and condoms. However, typical use and perfect use are the same for long-acting reversible birth control methods, such as the hormonal implant and copper IUD. That is because these contraceptives are administered by health professionals and the users do not have to do anything to ensure they stay protected from pregnancy.
When choosing a contraceptive method, it is important to consider the typical use pregnancy rate, not just the perfect use one. Then consider your own lifestyle and habits to determine whether it is the right contraceptive for you. If you feel the typical use pregnancy rate is too low, and believe you are likely to make mistakes with your contraceptive, you may prefer a long-acting reversible birth control method with a much higher typical use pregnancy rate.