The present prospective study was conducted to find out the incidence, etiology and outcome of respiratory distress (RD) in newborns. All newborns (n = 4505), delivered at this hospital over a period of 13 months, were observed for respiratory problems. Relevant antenatal, intranatal and neonatal information was noted. Cases were investigated for the cause of respiratory distress and followed up for the outcome. The overall incidence of RD was 6.7%. Preterm babies had the highest incidence (30.0%) followed by post-term (20.9%) and term babies (4.2%). Transient tachypnea of newborn (TTN) was found to be the commonest (42.7%) cause of RD followed by infection (17.0%), meconium aspiration syndrome (10.7%), hyaline membrane disease (9.3%) and birth asphyxia (3.3%). TTN was found to be common among both term and preterm babies. While Hyaline membrane disease (HMD) was seen mostly among preterms, and Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) among term and post-term babies. Overall case fatality ration for RD was found to be 19%, being highest for HMD (57.1%), followed by MAS (21.8%) and infection (15.6%). Our results indicate that RD is a common neonatal problem. TTN accounts for a large proportion of these cases. MAS and infection also contribute significantly and are largely preventable. Without adequate ventilatory support HMD and MAS carry high mortality.