Whether you’re a woman who has been dreading menopause for years, or you’re eagerly awaiting the day you’ll have no more menstrual cycle, menopause is something that every woman will one day be faced with. The Mayo Clinic defines menopause as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period. It can happen in your 40s or 50s, but on average, women hit menopause at age 51.

You may feel relieved or even slightly saddened that your reproductive days have come to an end, and other emotional and physical symptoms may accompany the onset of menopause (perimenopause) as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, they include:

• Irregular periods  •Vaginal dryness  • Hot flashes  

• Night sweats  • Sleep problems  • Mood changes  

• Weight gain and slowed metabolism

• Thinning hair and dry skin  • Loss of breast fullness

Many of the signs and symptoms of menopause are temporary, and there are ways to lessen the side effects. Always dress in layers and try to pinpoint what triggers hot flashes (this could be anything from spicy foods to caffeine). If sleep irregularities are a problem for you, try avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and work out during the day instead of at night. Relaxation techniques such as deep, paced breathing can ease certain symptoms and help you keep calm. Small adjustments such as these can lessen the effects of menopause for a more smooth and comfortable transition.

While menopause typically requires no medical treatment, certain treatments may be necessary to relieve signs and symptoms. Hormone therapy, low-dose antidepressants, the medication neurontin to reduce hot flashes, and medication to prevent or treat osteoporosis are options that may be necessary in certain instances. When visiting your doctor, be sure to come prepared. Keep track of your symptoms, make a list of any medications and vitamins you take, take a pen and paper to note information, and prepare a list of questions to ask. Doing these things can help your doctor work with you to best determine what specific treatment, if any, you will need.

Although menopause marks the end of the reproductive chapter of your life, it can mark the beginning of many wonderful years to come.